Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 17, 2014

Harsh winter leaves fruit growers wary

(Continued)

“We usually start pruning by now, but there’s so much snow pack and a lot of what we want to prune is under the snow,” Bramer said. “The vines are 24 inches off the ground and covered in snow, so there’s not much we can do. It makes you a little nervous, because we need to get started.”

The cold temperatures also are a concern.

“The freezing of the bays is a double-edged sword. It will shut off the snow, which is good at this point. We might be able to do some pruning now, but colder temps could settle in. The water from the bays is what protects the area from getting too cold,” he said.

Bramer said he’s lost some of the fruitful buds on his vines, but he’s learned it’s Mother Nature’s way of thinning out a crop.

“It’s hard to tell until the end of the season, but we’ve lost a little bit. Temperatures as low as nine below zero will wipe out the whole crop and we hit seven or eight below for about an hour,” Bramer said. “I think we’re okay, but we don’t want it to get quite that cold or it will wipe out the fruitful buds.”

He isn’t as worried about a March warm-up as Hubbell.

“Grapes are slower to react when things warm up,” Bramer said. “They weren’t affected when we had the early warm-up two years ago. I’m more concerned with a frost in April or May when the shoots are tender.”

“Those recent warm, milder winters gave us record-breaking crops and it’s been great, but in northern Michigan, this kind of cold weather is what we have to expect,” he said. “The moment you think you know what you’re doing, Mother Nature throws a wrench into it. You’ve got to farm every year like it’s a new experience.”

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